The Boston Globe

BC and BU rallied to the Four

- By Andrew Mahoney GLOBE STAFF Follow Andrew Mahoney @GlobeMahon­ey.

The belief for some that the Boston College and Boston University men’s hockey programs could reach the Frozen Four began in the preseason, when fans looked at the rosters and envisioned a deep run in the NCAA tournament for the storied programs.

The possibilit­y gained momentum when the schools occupied the top two spots in the polls, as well as the PairWise rankings, ahead of their home-and-home series at the end of January. And when the regular season ended with BC No. 1 and BU No. 2, it seemed inevitable that both would find their way to the national semifinals April 11 in St. Paul.

It would not be an easy road, but both teams survived serious challenges in the first two rounds of the tournament to make it through to the Frozen Four, where they will be joined by Denver and Michigan, and that’s where the weekend review begins.

■ The paths in the regionals felt similar, with a pair of game No. 4 seeds hanging in for the first two periods before BC and BU both pulled away in the third for comfortabl­e wins in the first round. The Terriers scored the final three goals of a 6-2 win over RIT, while BC broke open a 2-1 game with Michigan Tech by lighting the lamp four times in a 6-1 win.

■ In the regional finals, both schools had to overcome 2-0 deficits. BU managed to take a 4-3 lead into the third period Saturday night, then held Minnesota off the scoresheet before putting away the Gophers with a pair of empty-netters for the 6-3 win. It was the latest example of the Terriers being able to put an opponent away, something they struggled with earlier in the season.

“We’ve been much better the second half of the year extending leads and finishing the game off,” said BU coach Jay Pandolfo.

■ BC found itself chasing defending national champion Quinnipiac and never led in regulation, but the Eagles showed some grit in rallying to tie the game on three occasions before finally coming away with the 5-4 win on Jack Malone’s overtime goal.

“I think there’s a lot of benefits and a lot of positives that we can take away from this game moving forward,” said Malone. “We know that things are only going to get tougher from here. We’ve got to be able to take what we did tonight to St. Paul and use it to our advantage.”

■ It will be BC’s first appearance in the semifinals since 2016. Coach Greg Brown was an assistant that year, one of seven Frozen Fours the Eagles reached in his 14 years on Jerry York’s staff. He has an idea of how he wants to approach the 10 days between games.

“You have to balance,” said Brown. “You want to go out and work hard to get even better, but you have to balance it with the right amount of rest. So we’ll play it by ear. We’ll map out a schedule. You usually don’t drag practices on too much, but when you’re out there you want to be going your top speed.

■ Sunday’s matchup was the kind of physical, grinding game that is typical of playoff hockey, one that Quinnipiac used quite effectivel­y en route to capturing the title last year.

“It was a great college hockey game,” said coach Rand Pecknold. “Frustratin­g to lose like that, to not be able to put them away, but it’s a great hockey team. I’m really proud of our guys. I thought the battle level was excellent, passion was off the charts, like we wanted it.”

■ With the season over for the Bobcats, all eyes will be on where junior Collin Graf lands. The Lincoln native was a Hobey Baker top-10 finalist for the second year in a row, scoring 43 goals to go with 65 assists in 75 games the last two years. An undrafted free agent, he was named ECAC Player of the Year in March and is expected to sign with an NHL organizati­on and forgo his senior season.

■ One day after UMass dropped a tough 2-1 decision in double overtime to Denver, captain Ryan Ufko signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Nashville Predators. The junior defenseman had 10 goals and 16 assists in 37 games, including six game-winners.

The signing was not unexpected, particular­ly when Ufko showed up for the postgame press conference in full uniform along with graduate senior Liam Gorman. It is an unofficial UMass tradition that began when Cale Makar kept his jersey on after the Minutemen dropped the national championsh­ip game in Buffalo in 2019, and continued with Bobby Trivigno and Anthony Del Gaizo after UMass lost to Minnesota in the first round in Worcester in 2022.

Coach Greg Carvel said Ufko was probably the best player UMass has had since Makar when he made his pitch to the Hockey East coaches for the blue liner to be considered a finalist for Player of the Year.

“Plays 30 minutes a night,” said Carvel. “Outstandin­g player, outstandin­g human being, and you all want him on your team. He’s a clutch player, and he plays the game the right way. He does not cheat the game.”

 ?? DANIELLE PARHIZKARA­N/GLOBE STAFF ?? Freshman Ryan Leonard (9) had 4 goals and 2 assists in the Providence Regional games.
DANIELLE PARHIZKARA­N/GLOBE STAFF Freshman Ryan Leonard (9) had 4 goals and 2 assists in the Providence Regional games.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States